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Microsoft PowerApps lets employees create and connect business apps for any device -- no developer skills needed.
The software giant rolled out the new software as a service offering this week, which it said will solve a number of problems that mobile IT faces today.
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Many IT departments don't have a developer on staff, and there is a lack of experts for hire who can write code proficiently enough, said Doug Grosfield, president and CEO of Five Nines IT Solutions, an IT consultancy and Microsoft partner based in Kitchener, Ont.
"There is a growing need for having mobile apps, but it's difficult to do and to do well," Grosfield said. "There is definitely a gap there. Many businesses are usually relying on a third party to develop mobile apps for you. But with a product like this, a company can leverage to define, create and launch a mobile app that's aligned with their business needs and intent."
Microsoft is not the first to come up with a codeless app development platform, as many of the top vendors in the space have added this capability over the last year.
Some platforms include Kony Modeler, Salesforce1 Lightning, Oracle Mobile Application Framework, IBM Worklight and SAP Web IDE.
Microsoft may have an advantage over some of its competitors by using its homemade ecosystem, as PowerApps will integrate well with Microsoft software, such as Office 365 and OneDrive, among others.
Like PowerApps, the Oracle framework's Mobile App Accelerator feature uses templates for building apps to not only hasten the building process, but for ease of use as well, while many other platforms do not.
PowerApps in action
With PowerApps, business applications can be created with an Office-like interface without the need to write any code by using templates and automated workflows. IT professionals can use Azure App Services for employee-facing apps, which is included in PowerApps, to send Web-based and mobile apps to employees quickly, the company said.
Some of the apps Microsoft expects customers to mobilize via PowerApps include asset management, business opportunity tracking, surveys, product catalogs and event sign-ups.
End users can get corporate content over both cloud and on-premises systems, which allows for more agile transfers of corporate data. PowerApps connects to cloud services, such as Office 365, Dynamics CRM, Salesforce, Dropbox and OneDrive, in addition to on-premises systems, such as SharePoint, SQL Server, Oracle databases, SAP and others, Microsoft said.
Once an app is built, it can be shared among employees via email through an embedded link to the app. IT administrators can manage the data accessed and maintain corporate policies to ensure security, Microsoft said.
Doug Grosfieldpresident and CEO, Five Nines IT Solutions
"There is great value in having a mobile app that can, in a secure fashion, be able to access your corporate data, regardless where it resides, and doesn't compromise your security," Grosfield said.
PowerApps is currently available as a free preview, with the enterprise version of the service priced on a per-user, per-month subscription basis.
The Enterprise Plan for PowerApps includes the Azure App Service environment, in addition to application management features, such as app governance, secure access control and usage reporting, along with API management. Microsoft has not made pricing available.
PowerApps is part of Microsoft's mobile-first, cloud-first initiative, which has been the company motto ever since Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella took the helm in early 2014.
"Microsoft could be a very powerful player in the mobile market if they go after the enterprise and [do] not go after Apple in the consumer space," said Steve Brasen, managing research director at Enterprise Management Associates Inc., an analyst and consulting firm based in Boulder, Colo. "They recognize that they need to make more of an app ecosystem."
PowerApps enables the creation of custom apps on Windows, Apple iOS and Google Android for enterprises.
By developing mobile apps with PowerApps, it builds an application-creation ecosystem that Microsoft wants to drive a greater ecosystem for itself under Windows 10, Brasen said.
Ramin Edmond is a news writer with TechTarget's End User Computing media group. Contact him at Redmond@techtarget.com.
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